July 30, 2007
California Gets Checkered Flag

One final posting from the Indy International Wine Competition, which wrapped up over the weekend in Indianapolis: California wines ended up doing really well, even though entries from this far west tended to be releases by large corporate wineries rather than boutiques. But no one ever said that quality wine only comes from smaller wineries. Well, they have, but such a comment just doesn't make sense.

At any rate, the sweepstakes winner was a California wine, the supple Louis M. Martini Winery 2004 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, firmly structured and layered with flavors of cassis and olives. It generally sells for around $25 a bottle. If you've lost count of who owns what winery following the recent era of acquisition and consolidation in the California wine trade, E.&J. Gallo Winery of Modesto bought Martini in 2002.

In apparent celebration of its sweepstakes win in Indianapolis, Gallo officials announced this afternoon that it just bought William Hill Estate from Beam Wine Estates Inc. The purchase gives Gallo another high-profile presence in the Napa Valley. William Hill Estate includes a winery along the Silverado Trail on the east side of the valley and a 145-acre vineyard. Gallo looks to be on something of an expansion kick in Napa. It also recently bought 182 acres of vineyards in Chiles Valley in the Vaca Mountains just to the east of the valley floor.

Gallo's deal with Beam also includes Beam's Canyon Road label, which has been identified most closely with Sonoma County varietals. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

At any rate, I'll be reporting in more depth about the Indianapolis competition in the Dunne on Wine column to appear in The Bee's Taste section on Aug. 8.

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